For 10 years with this column, I have sung of the glories of nature opportunities in Davis and the region. There’s so much to delight in and explore in our pleasant, Mediterranean climate that features four distinctly beautiful seasons.
So please bear with me today as I take a different tack: a call for grassroots action to preserve and protect what we cherish, because grassroots efforts are the only way it will happen. Soon, and already, it’s a matter of life and breath, especially for the young and seniors with our current air. It may be a matter of life and death for many people in this region in this century. And what legacy will we leave next generations?
I’m talking about climate change.
It’s official. As of May 7 we have hit 400 parts per million (ppm). That’s what the carbon dioxide counter on the side of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii recorded. It has been several million years since CO2 reached these levels in the atmosphere. According to Bill McKibben of 350.org, scientists identified 350 ppm as the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Go to 350.org and read the science behind the numbers. A good first grassroots effort is for us to educate ourselves. Also note all of the hopeful actions being taken around the world.
Last year, the United States had its warmest year on record since record-keeping began in 1880. The 13 warmest years for our planet have all occurred since 1998. There’s little question that it is a result of burning fossil fuels. And the United States is responsible for 25 percent of the emissions. California comprises 9 percent of the U.S. contribution.
The Earth has had many abrupt warmings but this is the mother of all Earth warmings.
We’ve got glaciers melting, oceans rising, drought more common, coral reefs dissolving, extreme weather, hurricanes and blizzards. The Arctic is alarming with its shrinkage. Sea levels could go up several meters this century. Think of Hurricane Katrina and more recently, Hurricane Sandy. The federal government has determined that 35,000 homeowners in New York City who got hit by Sandy must raise their houses by several feet or pay skyrocketing flood insurance.
Watch the movie “Climate Refuges.” It’s a documentary that shows mass migration as a result of climate change. We now have environmental migrants. Whole islands have disappeared in the past few years. As people move, they crowd new areas and make for destabilization — people vulnerable and ripe to be manipulated.
In 2010, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Displacement Monitoring Center estimates that 42 million people were forced to flee natural hazards. Where will these people go? How will they survive? How many will the United States absorb?
In March, I attended an excellent local conference: Climate Crisis: Putting Faith into Action, an interfaith conference sponsored by Cool Davis and its faith group partners. Isabel Montañez, a professor of geology at UC Davis and a climate scientist, gave a talk on “Climate Crisis — Close to Home.” Going forward, we can expect to have poor air quality, extreme temperatures, more droughts and warm rain in the Sierra instead of snow. And Davis may become beachfront property with salt water in the delta.
How are birds faring? According to Audubon.org, “Since 1967 the average population of the common birds in steepest decline has fallen by 68 percent; some individual species nose-dived as much as 80 percent. All 20 birds on the national Common Birds in Decline list lost at least half their populations in just four decades.” This has to do with loss of habitat as well as environmental degradation.
Faith, political and environmental groups are cooperating in new ways. In February, 40,000 people marched on Washington in the biggest climate rally in U.S. history and called on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and put limits on the dirtiest of power plants. An estimated 5,000 people, including many Davis residents, marched in San Francisco. It was a hopeful, fun march of mixed ages and ethnic groups and probably 40 sponsoring organizations.
More than 1 million citizens wrote comments opposing Keystone XL. There are risks of oil spills in sensitive terrain. Higher greenhouse gas emissions come from the oil sands compared to conventional oil. A leak could damage the Oglala Aquifer, which is the water source for 2 million people and lots of agriculture.
The pipeline undermines the transition to a clean energy economy as it facilitates the dirtiest extraction of the dirtiest crude from tar sands in Canada. People who had previous contracts with Trans Canada authored environmental analysis but the State Department redacted the biographies to hide those associations.
I find it feels good to join with citizens of many groups to put up the good fight. Sixty of us spent a day lobbying at the Capitol for bills to put a moratorium on fracking. We jumped the first of seven hurdles when legislation passed through committee. And 140 of us lobbied the next day for the Disclose Act, to force ads to carry up front who are funding the ads — real names, not euphemistic Super PAC names. We jumped through the first of seven hurdles on that one also. Greedy corporations looking at bottom lines and anonymous monies are fueling our civilization collapse.
Remember the power of tiny ants. They maintain our planet’s biological balance though they are small and unnoticed. Their secret is working together. All of us need to educate ourselves and join together in actions to help our planet, the only place we can call home.
If you want to do it from an armchair, give money to groups like 350.org, Move On, Sierra Club, Move to Amend, Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO, Democracy for America, Environment California, Food and Water Watch and Organic Consumers Association. We must modify our own lifestyles and get control of our big polluters.
Do at least one thing good for our planet each day.
— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident; her column is published monthly. For questions or comments, contact her at [email protected]